San Pellegrino Young Chef

The Most Exciting Talent Search for Chefs in the World

Chanwai Poon: “My dish is inspired by childhood memories”

Chanwai Poon: “My dish is inspired by childhood memories”

Chanwai Poon wowed the local jury in the China regional heat of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 taking gold with his signature dish inspired by his childhood.

The sous chef from Aurora restaurant at the Disney resort, Shanghai is now hard at work putting the finishing touches to his dish and perfecting his presentation skills ready to take on the daunting task of representing his region at the Grand Finale.

The next time he will cook competitively will be on the world stage in Milan in May when he will take on 20 other global finalists with mentor chef Jacqueline Qiu by his side.

He spoke to us about his choices and culinary inspiration:

1. Describe your signature dish…

The name of my signature dish is, “Childhood”, a pan seared red mullet with Tetris beetroot and Asia shell fish sauce. It was inspired by a memory from my childhood. I used fish as my main ingredient because of my mum. I can still remember when I was in primary school, she always made a simple lunch for me before she went to her part-time job, and it really had a wonderful taste. I also used some of my favorite foods from when I was young, such like otak-otak (a Malaysian style fish cake) and Ji zai biscuit (a kind of China Cantonese traditional biscuit). I also made the shape of some of the ingredients into my childhood toys - I cut the beetroot into Tetris shapes and I the potato and zucchini into spiral slides. 

Chanwai Poon signature dish 'Childhood', pan seared red mullet with texture of beetroot and shellfish sauce

2. What made you become a chef?

Also because of my mum. When I was 15 years old, my mum was diagnosed breast cancer, then she had chemotherapy treatment. She was really weak and walking was difficult, so I became a chef at home to cook for my family. She is the best chef ever in my opinion. She told me what I should buy from market, how to cook with the ingredient, what should I cook, and that really inspired me to become a chef.

3. Who has influenced you in your career?

Quite a few people influenced me in my career. At the very beginning it was a restaurant chef I learned from, Jimmy Chan. He taught me the most basic knowledge when I was just a blank sheet of paper. And another important mentor of mine is my current culinary director, Chef Alan Orreal at Shanghai Disney Resort. He gave me a chance to become a sous chef and recommended me for this competition. Lastly, I would like to thank our Executive sous chef Elliot Zhou at Aurora, he gave me a lot of ideas for my dish and taught me culinary skills I had never learned before.

4. Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years’ time?

I hope I can become a restaurant head chef providing delicious food for everyone, just like what I’m doing now.

 5. How are you/will you collaborate with your mentor, Jacqueline Qiu, in order to perfect your dish for the Grand Finale?

I learned a lot from her experience, to infuse more unique, Chinese ingredients and elements to make my dish more diversified.

6. What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?

Presentation. I am used to spending my time with a stove and pan, while my chef would talk with the guests. This is something I’m working at and I believe the presentation is the most challenging part of this competition.

7. Why do you think you can win the S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 title?

I never thought about whether I can win or not, I just always try my best to learn, and to show what I can do.

8. If you weren’t a chef what would you be?

A farmer or fishermen. It is all about the food - I would like to know where and how food comes from.

9. What’s your most memorable food experience?

Thai beef salad. The dressing is actually soaked with unique spices overnight to get the sweetness into the fish sauce dressing.

10. What do you like to do in your free time?

Go to the market, buy some fresh ingredient and cook for my girlfriend. I like to see her happy and satisfied after one of the meals I cook for her.

Chanwai Poon, finalist for S.Pellegrino Young Chef in China

Read the inteview with mentor chef Jacqueline Qiu

22/02/18